A Whiston Hospital staff member traded databases for football boots when he took to the field as part of Team GB’s American Football squad in an international match against France this month.
Matthew O’Connell, 27, Specialist Information Analyst, who plays Defensive Line, made the team in the match played at Coventry’s Butts Park Arena after being picked from a starting line-up of 300 hopefuls.
‘It was crazy representing Team GB, and singing the national anthem before the game made it feel very real. I was so nervous before, but the moment it started I was in the zone and focused’.
‘Loads of my family and friends made the journey to support me, which was amazing. And some of my best friends are in the team so it was great to be able to spend more time with them over the weekend.’
Matt has competed in sport all his life, beginning with badminton from a young age.
‘I played badminton for years, from when I was about eleven, taking part in tournaments most weekends. In my late teens I realised I wasn’t quite built for it! But by chance there was an American football team at the top of my road and that’s when I made the switch’.
Playing American Football is very different from Matt’s day-to-day life analysing data and reporting on hospital performance as part of the Trust’s Service Improvement Team, but there’s a similar eye for detail:
‘The team is so focused on being the best we can be. We spent the whole day before the match running through our strategy. All our training sessions are recorded, and we watch every play back to see how we can improve. The day after this game we did the same!’
The team is now looking ahead to a match against Denmark in October. It’s the next step in the qualification process with the hopes of making the European Championships in 2025.